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Choosing a coal BBQ? This guide shows the way

Hamburgers are cooking on a coal BBQ surrounded with orange and red flames

Do we live on earth? Or are we living in oversaturated sea of products? Something to ponder as you sip your morning cuppa. The capitalist consumer complex is flooded with choice. Every product has an apparent purpose, function and benefit to you the consumer. This applies to the BBQ realm too. So if you are choosing a coal BBQ, do you have this data to hand? Well, that’s where we come in. Welcome to your coal BBQ basics. By the time we’re through, you will be able to make a super informed decision on the right coal BBQ for you.


What’s the best coal BBQ for you?

People always focus on the word ‘best’. Whereas in fact, the word ‘you’ holds the key. In other words finding the best coal BBQ for you is a subjective thing. It’s a personal choice based on matching product characteristics to your particular wants and needs. Are you looking for ease and convenience from your barbecue? Or perhaps you are flavour obsessed? Or maybe you are a smoking purist?  There are different kinds of coal BBQs to match your BBQ personality.  Let’s take a look and go deeper.


How to choose the right coal BBQ for you?

Every coal BBQ has pros and cons, so familiarise yourself with this landscape. Then, carefully weigh up the advantages and disadvantages of each grill against your needs. There are many factors to consider, from the size of the physical space available for your barbecue and the type of food you want to cook,  to your skill level and the amount of people you will be grilling for. In summation, choosing the right bbq for you boils down to careful consideration and calculation.


Meat and vegetables cook on a coal BBQ with a man standing by


A quick breakdown of the coal BBQ

Sure there are gas and electric options out there. And if these are tickling your fancy then go for it. We just want everyone to get their grill on whatever their choices. However, we are BBQ purists. In others words, we believe the most delicious BBQ comes from cooking over charcoal. You simply can’t replicate that smoky goodness by any other means. Here are a few general points about charcoal grills.

All charcoal grills share a few commonalities. Air intake is usually located toward the bottom of the grill and can be manually adjusted. So when air enters the grill, it passes by the burning charcoal and exits through another vent at the top of the grill – much like a wood burning stove. It’s basic physics. The more air within the grill, the better the combustion and the higher the temperature.

Charcoal barbecues offer an easy and convenient way to ensure you get that optimum smoky flavour in all your bbq dishes. The heat distribution is centred around a hot and direct zone of heat by placing the charcoal at the base of your barbecue. Of course you can also arrange your charcoal in different ways to create different kinds of heat output including indirect heat.


A few key facts about charcoal BBQs

  1. They are the least expensive type of grill compared to gas, electric or hybrid options.
  2. Obviously charcoal barbecues use lumpwood charcoal or charcoal briquettes as their main fuel source.
  3. The more charcoal you use, the more heat you create.
  4. You can achieve cooking temperatures of up to 370 degrees Celsius.
  5. There are no external heat control capabilities included with these grills.
  6. Cookie temperature regulation is achieved by the amount of charcoal used, how it is arranged and the amount of air flow within the barbecue cooking chamber.
  7. Dampers on the grill base and lid control airflow, therefore controlling heat.
  8. Infuses BBQ food wit a super smoky flavour.
  9. These grills heat up slower than gas or electric grills.
  10. Charcoal barbecues require more clean-up, as most charcoals produce ash when burned.


What are charcoal BBQs made of?

Speaking generally here, most charcoal grills are made from cast aluminium, sheet metal or stainless steel. In terms of lids, you’re looking at either removable or hinged lids. Moving onto the grill gates included with all grills, they are usually made from cast iron, chrome or porcelain coated steel. Ok so now you know the basic materials involved, let’s look at how these come together and examine some coal BBQs.


A man cooks on a kettle coal BBQ


Charcoal Kettle grills

Introducing the most famous and recognisable coal BBQ – the Kettle grill. These classic grills are shaped like a kettle, consisting of a rounded bottom, removable lid, grill grates and stand. Your charcoal lies in the bottom of the grill, raised on a small grate. The grate allows ash and other cooking debris to fall away from the heat source. This helps to maintain an even airflow over the charcoal. Kettle grills are made of metal and they are are relatively lightweight. Of course they come in different sizes, as well as varying portable options.. Kettle grills normally require less charcoal for your cook.


A shot of a coal BBQ smoker


Kamado grills

Kamado grills have become super popular in the last few years. This is probably down to their versatility, durability and performance. A Kamado grill has an elongated body which greatly improves heat circulation, ensuring even cooks every time. Thanks to its thick, ceramic construction, the Kamado can handle super high tempertures. Kamado’s can also execute low and slow cooks with ease. Put all this together and you can grill up everything from steaks and sausages to thick cuts such as brisket. Also, the convection heat within a Kamado makes this grill perfect for baking pizzas too.


Pellet grills

Sure, technically this isn’t a charcoal grill but as it burns a form of wood fuel we will include it here. Basically  pellet smokers  are electrically powered grills, that use hardwood smoking pellets to produce heat and smoke. You can use a pellet smoker as a convection oven, producing temperatures between 71 – 315 degrees Celsius. Say hello to smoking, grilling, roasting, baking and braising. Pellet grills offer more temperature control than a conventional charcoal grill. How? Basically a hopper feeds pellets into the grill as needed to maintain a present temperature. In other words you now have precise digital heat control for an even cook at a constant temperature.


A shot of a coal BBQ smoker


BBQ Smokers

Before we get into BBQ smokers, it is worth mentioning that you can also use conventional charcoal grills as smokers. All you need to do is get hold of some hardwood pellets, smoking wood chunks or chips. Simply add a handful to your hot coals before cooking and you can still get that smoky flavour you crave. Ok back to BBQ smokers. A charcoal smoker is designed to cook food at lower temperatures for longer periods of time. Essentially you can think of a BBQ smoker as slow-cook version of a grill. Heat for charcoal smokers is provided by charcoal obviously. And wood chips, chunks and pellets deliver that smoky flavour heaven. There are many BBQ smokers from off-set to barrel smokers and more.


Portable grills

If you’re all about convenience, mobility and ease then you should defo check out the portable grills out there. Pretty much most grills have smaller, portable version that you can use on the go. The main consideration here is size – meaning you have reduced cooking surface so portable bbq grills aren’t so good for larger groups.


What coal is best for BBQ?

We’re not going to get sucked into a ‘best’ argument here. As we always say, there’s no such things as best. Rather it’s about what’s best for you. Now there are a few general points you need to know when it comes to charcoal.

The first one is slightly more philosophical. You need to start thinking of charcoal as an ingredient: the most important ingredient in any BBQ. Your charcoal can affect everything for the taste and texture of your food, to the look on the plate. So you need high quality charcoal you can trust. But what does this mean?  Basically you should be looking at 100% natural lumpwood charcoal – meaning no accelerants, chemicals or hidden nasties. You will also want charcoal derived from dense hardwoods and ideally sustainably sourced. Wow that sounds like a lot of prerequisites right? Don’t worry we have you covered as many products within our range meet these requirements! Check out our pro range here and grab high quality charcoal that delivers cook after cook.


How to clean a coal BBQ?

There’s never one way to skin a cat. However a singular focus is always useful. Here’s one way you can keep your grill tip top.

The BBQ process can take it’;s toll on your grill. Think about it: cooking meat over fire means heat, fat, grease, general cooking detritus, ash and more. First grab the tools below.

  • Grill Brush.
  • Best grill scraper
  • Best grill cleaning brick


Here’s step by step way to clean your grill

  1. Fill a sink or bucket with warm water
  2. Add approximately 1/2 cup of baking soda.
  3. Mix up a paste of Dawn dish soap and baking soda.
  4. Apply the paste to the grates
  5. Let the grates soak for at least 30 minutes.
  6. Then scrub, wash, and rinse.


How to put out a coal BBQ?

The goal here is to cool down your coals and ash. This can be done a few different ways.


1) Suffocate your fire for 24-48 hours

All you need to do is close the lid on your grill and shut the vents until the ash has completely cooled for at least 48 hours.

2) Douse your charcoal with water

Another easy one. Simply pour water over your charcoal and stir. This cools ash quickly and completely, so dormant embers can’t re-ignite. Just be careful as adding water to hot coals will create hot steam — just make sure that you pour the water slowly.

Once your used charcoal and ash is stone cold, it is safe to throw away. We recommend wrapping up the coals and ash in aluminium foil before disposing in a non-combustible bin.

No need to go any deeper than this at this stage guys and gals. With this basic info, you should be well on your way to choosing the right charcoal grill for you. See again soon for another wisdom gem dropping!